He wakes up every morning knowing that in two months he will be leaving his family and friends and flying to a country that he has never seen, where people speak a language he doesn't know, and that when he gets there, his mission will be to fight for the country that he loves and to stay alive.
In return, Spc. Charlie B. Neilsen, 22, will have the rest of his college education paid for, which he believes is a very good deal. He didn't want to be in debt for years to come, and when he found out the Army would pay for the rest of his schooling he was sold. In May 2006, Neilsen enlisted in the Army Reserves.
Until now his life has been normal. He goes to school at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut full time as a history major and works at a video game store. He's attractive and polite, with a great sense of humor. His red hair barely stands a quarter on an inch a top his head. His smile stays on all day.
He unlaced his combat boots, sipped a glass of water and said, "Hey Bud, we doin' this?"
Private Neilsen is a 22-year-old resident of Old Saybrook, Conn. People who grew up with him only have good things to say about him.
"Charlie is a great guy. He's really energetic, always willing to help and very determined. He's just genuinely a nice guy," said Mathew Seymour, 23, a classmate since second grade. In a small town like Old Saybrook, graduating in a class of 114 students in 2004, everyone knows everyone else.
Neilsen grew up playing army games in his back yard with his two older brothers. Joining the Army was always something he wanted to do.
In June 2006 he was sent to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. Although basic training can be tough, he didn't complain. It's not in his nature. He was brought up with a nothing-comes-for-free mentality. Two days after basic training was over, he was sent to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., for military intelligence training.
"When I think back to that time, man, it was the most intense training of my life. But it was really cool. I loved it," he said.
"I love what I do in the Army. Dude, I know so much classified information, and I love that I know it. It makes me feel like a secret agent. I would love to tell you, butů it's classified," he laughs.